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Sgt. Brian Tuthill, Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs
NAWA, Helmand Province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – 01.26.2010 Hundreds of Marines, sailors and civilians of 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, gathered during a memorial service in Nawa to honor two fallen Marines and a civilian journalist.
At Forward Operating Base Geronimo, Jan. 19, Headquarters and Service Company, 1/3, paid tribute to Lance Cpl. Mark D. Juarez, 23, an ammunition technician, and Rupert Hamer, 39, who embedded with 1/3, and was the first British journalist killed in Afghanistan. Both were killed while the Marines were conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Jan. 9.
At FOB Spin Ghar, Jan. 20, Marines of Bravo Company, 1/3, gathered to mourn the loss of Lance Cpl. Jacob A. Meinert, a 20-year-old from Fort Atkinson, Wis., who served with 3rd Platoon, Bravo Co., as a fire team leader. Meinert was killed, Jan. 10, while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Jan. 9.
Also attending the ceremony at FOB Geronimo was Cpl. Eric D. Groves, who flew in before the ceremony and reunited with his fellow Marines of Trucks Platoon for the first time since he was injured in the IED attack, Jan. 9. He is expected to return to full duty.
The Marines were also joined by the Nawa District governor and administrator, Afghan national army officers, and Afghan national police officers to pay their respects to those killed fighting for the peace and prosperity of the Afghan people.
At the start of each service, Marines constructed a "battlefield cross" memorial stand for each fallen Marine beneath their portraits. Marines carried forward M-16A4 service rifles and planted them upside down, with the bayonet digging into the earth. The boots were placed in front and a helmet rested on top of the buttstock. The dog tags of the fallen Marines were draped from the rifle's pistol grip.
Marines also set up a memorial display for Hamer, a seasoned combat journalist from London. The display consisted of a dark blue flak jacket and black helmet that were of the type commonly worn by embedded civilians and a reporter's notepad and pen were attached to the flak jacket.
Juarez, who had completed a previous combat tour in Iraq with 1/3, was from San Antonio and was remembered as a person who would constantly sacrifice himself for the betterment of others and someone who tried to make others smile.
"Mark was the 5,225th American to make the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror," said Capt. Andrew T. Gourgoumis, H & S Company commander. "By doing so, he has joined the hallowed halls of those whom our nation will honor well after all of us leave this life."
Hamer was remembered as a man of quick wit, humor and humility who made friends quickly, despite his relatively short time spent with Marines here. Hamer dedicated 20 years, literally half of his life, to journalism and came to Nawa to tell the story of Marines and the Afghan people and their fight against the Taliban. As the defense correspondent for the Sunday Mirror newspaper, this was his fifth visit to Afghanistan, and he had seen combat previously in Iraq and Oman.
"He, like our Marines, was a man who made a choice to contribute positively to our society and civilization," said Gourgoumis. "His memory and sacrifice will stay with us. He, too, is now a member of our family."
At FOB Spin Ghar, all Marines of 3rd Platoon were present to memorialize "Slim" Meinert, who was remembered for his passions of music and sailing, his kindness and broad knowledge as a Marine. He had completed a combat tour of Iraq with Bravo Company last year as a radio operator and, although not formally trained as an infantryman, Meinert was assigned as a team leader in Afghanistan, and his Marines said they were proud to serve under him.
"Not only was he a brother to me, but he was a fearless leader who led from the front," said Lance Cpl. Jacob B. Hannah, a 20-year-old assaultman who was a close friend of Meinert. "Slim was in a league of his own. I wish I had the opportunity to tell him how much of a difference he made in my life."
Abdul Manaf, the district governor of Nawa, also spoke to Marines during Meinert's memorial service and expressed his shared sense of loss.
"This Marine was serving Afghanistan and working for the good of the people," said Manaf, a former Mujahedeen fighter who battled against the Soviets during their invasion of Afghanistan. "He died for your country and for ours. God bless the Marines who are here in this country. All Marines are working hard to help us. I give you a guarantee that in the future we will keep fighting together."
The ceremonies each concluded with the company first sergeants bellowing the final roll call, followed by three sharp cracks of seven rifles firing as they punctuated the rapt silence. The haunting echoes of "Taps" played while formations of Marines held crisp salutes, some visibly wrestling with their emotions as the bugle slowly played.
Citing the lyrics of the "Marines' Hymn," Capt. Thomas J. Grace, Bravo Compnay commander, said, "We know the streets of heaven are truly in good hands."